The Ghosts of Berwick Lane

The Ghosts of Berwick Lane

Berwick is a near-ghost town in McHenry County, about 7 1/2 miles east of Towner, or 11 miles west of Rugby, and very much off the beaten path.

Berwick, North Dakota

At one time, this was the main street in Berwick, North Dakota. A brick, single-story building wears a sign that reads “Holmes’ Bar,” and it stands one lot over from an abandoned building with peeling siding, the two conjoined by a weathered picket fence. People once came and went every day, but today, they are empty places, and farm trucks pass without stopping. They’re just the ghosts of Berwick Lane.

Berwick, North Dakota

Berwick, North Dakota

Berwick is near a historic site–St. Anselm’s Cemetery, Wrought-Iron Cross Site–which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.  We weren’t aware of it when we visited Berwick in 2010, but you can bet we’ll get some photos next time we’re in the area.

Berwick, North Dakota

The brick chimney on this tiny prairie home has collapsed, and the bricks lie scattered about the roof.

Berwick, North Dakota

US Census Data for Berwick
Total Population by Place

1960 – 56
1970 – 33
1980 – 22
2000 – Does Not Appear

Berwick, North Dakota

During our visit to Berwick we talked to several people, including one gentleman who was using his weekend to fix up a local home with an affordable remedy we’ve been seeing a lot of lately — galvanized steel roofing.  He told us he’s trying to fix up as many as he can, and we were glad to hear it.

Berwick, North Dakota

Berwick, North Dakota

Berwick, North Dakota

What was this place? A community center? Perhaps someone can comment below.

Berwick, North Dakota

Berwick, North Dakota

Berwick, North Dakota

Berwick, North Dakota

According to one online account from 2003, this former Lutheran Church in Berwick was purchased by a Rugby resident for $600. It is featured in our book Churches of the High Plains.

Berwick, North Dakota

Berwick, North Dakota

Berwick, North Dakota

Berwick, North Dakota

Berwick, North Dakota

Berwick, North Dakota

This foundation is reportedly the former site of the railroad depot in Berwick (see comments.) The building was moved to Towner where it became an antique shop.

Berwick, North Dakota

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC

58 thoughts on “The Ghosts of Berwick Lane

  1. Wow. Nice pics. …particularly the Church. Upon viewing all these terrific photos you guys share, i can’t help but wish America would have maintained our original agrarian-modeled economy. I think the Soviet- style subsidized corporate farming that came along with the industrial era was a turn in the wrong direction.

  2. Wow! Early in the 80s my high school friend and I decided to spend one Saturday in the summer traveling from Minot to Devils Lake stopping in each and every town on the way. I remember Berwick with quite a few people. We also took a couple other routes doing the same thing. We should have taken pictures back then. 🙂

  3. It’s interesting to see pictures of Berwick as I had family that lived there back in the days. I actually came across a postcard from the town in 1908 or so showing the Great Northern depot and grain elevators.

      1. Katina, my grandmother, Mary Rognlien, had a house in Berwick and I went to 8th grade there in 1962. I remember working at the concession stand with Bruce Holmes during dances at the town hall. Would you happen to know what happened to my grandmother’s house or who owns any of the property in Berwick now? Thank you for any information.

        1. Interesting, I am named after Mary Rognlien from Berwick. She was my grandmother, too! My dad was James Michael Rognlien, died when I was 5 years old…never knew anyone from the Rognlien side. Let me introduce myself. I am Mary Mathilda Rognlien Loreno…:)

          1. Mary, I know exactly who you are!! I have a copy of your parent’s wedding picture. I was in the eighth grade and living with Grandma Mary in Berwick when your father James became ill. Grandma Mary, Grandpa Martin, Uncle John and Uncle Melvin drove to Minnesota to see him in the hospital but Grandma Mary didn’t make the trip again when your father passed. She was brokenhearted about losing her son. Her brother Tom passed from the same issues. I have heard a lot about what a great man your father was. he was always bigger than life to me. About 6 years ago, I went back to Towner to see Uncle John before he passed. I left on a Monday and he was gone on Tuesday. His son, Young John used to communicate but I haven’t heard from him for a while. My mother passed away 10 years ago. She was Cornelia, named after Grandma Mary’s mother, but Grandpa Martin nicknamed her “Peggy”. I have an extensive family history of the Dugan/Rognlien clan I would be happy to share with you. I sent a copy to Young John Rognlien and his sister Marlene Rognlien Marshall. I know some stories about the Rognlien kids when they were growing up…….hope to hear back from you.

          2. Thanks for getting back to me…I only knew Aunt Peggy as Aunt Peggy…didn’t know her name was Cornelia….I would love to get info about the Rognliens. I once heard that Peggy lived in Fargo for a while?

        1. Gosh….where is it in Towner?? I had no idea. It would have been fun to see. Used to play at the depot and with kids that lived there.

      2. Katina, was your family “Holmes”. They lived there and another family was there before but I have less memory of them.

  4. I’ve been doing some genealogy lately and have discovered that I also have/had relatives that lived around Berwick – some were married in the Berwick church. Anyone know if the church pictured was Catholic or Lutheran? My relatives were German-Russian Catholics. Interesting what they used to “fix-up” buildings in the 1930s-40s, re: the building with the asphalt shingle-type siding nailed to the old clapboard.

    1. interesting! my great grandpas family is german-russian as well and settled there then moved to fox valley sask! our last name is Dirk….. any relation??

    2. The church was lutheran. I attended services several times with my wife Claudette Oppen who grew up a couple miles east at Oppen’s grove where the little pastel cabins are.

  5. This was a Lutheran church. I haven’t seen it in so many years. Would love to know if there are any pictures of the inside and also if it is ever used anymore.

    1. The church has been closed down for nearly 10+ years. I have some old photos from the inside. I was baptized there…..

    2. I live just north of Berwick and my husband belonged to that church!! A lady from Rugby now owns the church and it is falling apart! My mother-in-law has pictures of when the church was going. Hope that helps! Koreen Bryn

    3. I lived across the street from the church about 19 years ago. My grandma continued to drive to church there even after she moved to Rugby until it closed. I have a book from I’m going to guess about 11 years ago that they put out with pictures of the church and all of the members and their families. I know where it is I just have to get it.

  6. I’m curious….at all these places you visit, do you ever notice that abandoned buildings are taken over by wildlife? I’m thinking that any number of possums, racoons, skunks, foxes, or even feral cats, etc., would use them as shelter, at least if no one is keeping them out.

    1. I have a book of the church. I am disposing of things and will kindly give the book to you. Let me know how….
      December 30, 2015

  7. I used to go to bible school there, was a wonderful church full of alot of wonderful people. I miss the days of playing baseball there!

  8. Picture # 2
    The brick building on the left was the bar, and the two story building on the right had the post office in the front half of the lower floor. The back half and the whole upper story was the residence of the Ebell family. Mrs. Ebell was the postmaster.
    Picture # 8
    This is a close-up of the main entrance to the town hall which was used for everything from meetings, to basketball games, dances, etc.
    Picture #11
    This is a close-up of the post office and the Ebell residence which was also in Picture #2.

  9. I have pictures and post cards,with lots of communications from Aunt Fronie Wolff to my grandfather Charlie Kreitz in Rosemount MN. They date from about 1905 to 1920.I have a
    picture of their homestead shack. I will be commimg out there in September to do some family
    history research. in Bismark and Berwick. I also have great picture Aunt Mary in front of the
    dinner and the Berwick Dray line that Uncle Frank drove,

    1. Since my great grandfather Alexander and my grandfather Smith lived near Berwick during that time period no doubt they knew your aunt Fronie. Any mention of my family in those letters that you can recall?

  10. My great-grandma Ann (Eikeness) LeFavor was born there. My parents & I visited several years ago to look around & do some genealogy research. The lady at the county courthouse told us they once had a girls basketball team. Amazing seeing how empty it now is.

    Does anyone know where the church records went? I didn’t find much for records at the courthouse until the 20s & 30s. My great-grandma was born in 1904 to Swen & Hilda (Linto) Eikeness. I’ve never found solid dates for her siblings. Just approximations from census records.

  11. My uncle John Brossart and aunt Rosie (Kuntz) Brossart lived in Berwick for many years. Uncle John had a garage there where he fixed many vehicles and farm implements. He also “invented” a few pieces of farm machinery too — that is, he’d put a few things together and voila! I remember that my Aunt Rosie used to walk out to the fields with her four or five cows and watch them while they ate, then take them home to milk. They lived a good life there.

    1. My uncle John Brossart (my father Bennie was his brother) and aunt Rosie I remember them when we would go to visit. My uncle Johnny had a dog named Dirty Dog. and yes he did much mechanical work. I miss those days

      1. I went to grade school in Voltaire with a Bennie Brossart. He had a brother and sister. They had a farm about a mile East of Voltaire. Ran into him at the family farm several years ago. I thought he lived in Minot. A different Bennie Brossart?

  12. Hi. Loved this site. Thank you. I have scant information that my father told me. His records. all burned in the Orrin church that was struck by lightning 2 times over the years. 3 generations spent most of their lives in McHenry county. Can anyone give me information on “Fulda?” Dad said it was a brick church. He called it an inland country church south of Berwick. Probably Catholic.
    Thanks.

    1. Fulda was a Catholic Church, It was used to about a dozen years ago. They used the same priest as Balta and Orrin and had an alternating schudule of worship with those Churches. It should be still standing south of Highway 2 a couple miles.

    2. St. Anselm’s Catholic Church (aka “Fulda) is no longer operational (closed by the diocese around 2000 or 2001) but still stands. It is on 19th Ave NE about 0.5 miles south of 59th St NE. The north-south road on which it sits runs just east of Berwick. The church is a brick building that was constructed in 1947 if I remember correctly.

    3. Fulda is located about 4 miles south from milemarker 101 (used to be a rest area for many years) west of Rugby 9 miles. The church, St. Anselm’s (catholic), is still standing but the parish house was sold many years ago. I remember Father Lipond (spelling?) when I was quite young and I loved Father Tuchscherer (spelling?). My parents (Kasper & Gladys) missed church one Sunday and Father T drove to our house for lunch to make sure we were ok and to find out why we missed. Needless to say, we didn’t miss church again.

      1. The Church is kept up by some of the former People and we went back for 50th wedding Anniversary and took our picture in the church.

  13. Cool! I was just through Berwick in July 2012 and took about 50 photos. Not too much change from the above other than that the sign on the side of the bar is gone, and the town hall has extra boards nailed on the front.

  14. 8/23/12 To overrailing: Yes, the town did have a girl’s basketball team all the years I attended school there. I played on the team until the high school closed in 1960. My husband & I held our wedding dance in the town hall in 1962. One of the abandoned houses pictured belonged to our school principal, Oliver Finstad. From: Lori

  15. The house that has all the windows on the east side, and then farther down the pics you see the west side of the house was my Grandfather Grove’s home. I spent many hours in Berwick as a kid. One of my Aunts taught school and my Grandfather ran one of the grain elevators. I spent many Friday nites roller skating in the town hall.
    I can remember going to church on Christmas eve in that church.

  16. I went to school in Berwick in 1960 (8th grade) Mr. Finstad was the teacher. My grandmother, Mary Dugan Rognlien had a house in Berwick. It was a 2-story house not too far from the post office. Does any one remember the house or know what happened to it? I remember the Brossarts and I think the Haman family had the bar on the other side of the highway.

  17. I spent many summer and holidays in Berwick with my grandparents Oliver and Agnes Finstad. Some of my warmest memories involved special people of this little town. I drove through the town this summer on a visit to North Dakota and was overwhelmed with feelings and memories as I viewed the few buildings that were left. Sadly the school is gone and the Odden home where my best friend Denise lived but other places still stood. What is the ghost connection? Caren Ramsey Flaten

  18. I lived in Berwick 1944 to 1957. Ruth and Ole Peterson (parents) Johnnie, Norma, Marlys & me. Marlys and I played on that wonderful girls basketball team. We danced in that old hall. My brother Johnnie, now 82 recently married Mary Lou Smith Odden and they live in Spokane, Wa. The last time I was there, we left infested with ticks from the lilac bushes. I remember Johnnie Rognlien riding his horse into town and the girls swooning as he passed by. Knew Carol Finstead & her brother Lee. Went to school with the Ebel’s, Groves, Knutsons, Smith’s,
    Flageols, Wolf’s, MacGregors, Hillman, Fylkin not to mention all those in the near country. Even a Crazy Miller?
    I am a story poem writer and have several with roots in Berwick. Happy to share jolupeke@wavecable.com
    Vivian Grove was my 1st teacher. We too spent years of church & Sunday school in that church. Joanne Kenzy

  19. I grew up in Berwick. I was born in 1957 and lived there on Main Street until 6th grade. I went to the two room school house, learned to dance at the town hall. My older sisters of course were there through high school graduating from Towner High. My grandparents owned the gas station and store on Hwy 2 at the entrance to Berwick. Such memories.

    1. When we over-slept and were running late for school
      We would run under the bushes in the front of your house
      Replacing the hairbrush with bushes that grew
      Guess no one noticed, no one ever knew

      Joanne

  20. I heard many stories from my late father who grew up in Berwick. His dad, Frank Welk, ran a grain elevator and farmed much of the land around the town with the help of his four sons and five daughters. They had the first bathtub in town, which when I last saw it, was growing lettuce in the backyard of my uncle and aunt, the late Joe & Barbara Sitter of Rugby. The Welk homestead was also moved to Rugby some decades ago.

    My father told me he built the town hall (which he identified for me at our last visit in 1993 — it is the second picture) in 1931 when he was mayor at age 18! Emphasizing the prosperity of the town before the Depression, he recalled that there were five grocery stores in Berwick.

    After seven years of crop failures, Frank Welk and his wife, Katheryn, (nee Schall) died in the mid 1930s and are buried at St. Anselm’s. My father took the rest of the children to Oregon to join his brothers where they had sought work. The hundreds of acres of property all was abandoned for taxes. Symbolic, perhaps, of the days to come for the town.

  21. My mom’s family lived in Berwick when she was born in 1901. They had just come from Germany and Russia at that time. (Germans from Russia) has an association housed at NDSU and Bismarck.

  22. It is so great to read of all the stories of Berwick past, and the treasured memories made there. I have purchased most of the still-existing structures there, with the dream of restoring as many as I can (including the ‘bar’, which was originally a Bank, and the Lutheran Church). It is sad to see so many that could have been saved, just let to “fall down”, or torn down without any thought, and so many past generation’s proud yards grown up, going to seed year after year. Hopefully, present and future generations can also be blessed with special memories of a cleaned-up and restored Berwick. And, as the Buck Owens song goes, ‘Love’s Gonna Live Here Again’. If anyone has any photographs (stories/information) of Berwick, I would sure love to see them. So little of the “booming” Berwick still exists, and unfortunately that includes photographs. So many people has personally shared memories with me; Thank you: Johnny Volk, Rosie Brossart, Norma Holmes, Marjorie Forest, Leonard Bishoff, Wally Ebell, Eunice Sitter, and many more I have had the pleasure to visit with over the years.

  23. I remember stopping in Berwick to see my Grandmother’s cousin, John Huddleston. My paternal grandmother was Edna Hooker Skaar. We were usually coming back from Minot when we would stop in. I have no idea what he did for living or how he ended up in this small town. I don’t ever remember going inside his home…just chatting out in the yard. If any one remembers him or other family members, please post. Thanks!

  24. The picture of the building you referred to as the community center….was that for a time and the held dances in there….my grandparents (Alfred “Bud” and Nora Rosencrans) had their 50th wedding anniversary there in 1978…my husbands band (Tony Schell Jr….his dad Tony Schell Sr and his uncle Vernon Olson) played for the dance there at the Berwick hall….I was 12…..He was 16…..and many years and husband and wives later…..we found each other and got married!

  25. In the mid/ late 90’s Margie Forrest had a rummage sale/flea market thing going on in the hall. There is now a gentleman working on a house northeast of there, it’s almost painted like main street buildings from the wild west…hard to explain.

    1. Hi. I’m the one restoring the ‘wild west’ building. The original structure was built in 1901 as the office building for the St. Hilaire Retail Lumber Company. Most of that side of the road was spralling lumber warehouses. I had discovered in the attic that the front used to have a “false front” on it, but was removed in later years. So, in trying to stay authentic, I re-built the false front (that “wild west” look). Too, doing a paint-rub, I discovered that the first layer of paint was of a reddish color, hence the now red siding. Of course, the west section of the building was built on in 1963, and I tried to make sure the original historic structure stood out separately.

    1. Hey Eric. I have still got that ‘HOLMES BAR” sign that used to be on the side of your Grandfather’s bar (originally a Bank). If you may want it, please let me know. I am sure it is a family treasure. I have returned many items I have found through the years, to families they used to belong to. It’s just the right thing to do.

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